When You and Your Child Need Some First Aid Fast

Photography: Jenna Young

By Dr Laura Markham

“When we act with love, trying to understand the other person, it is easy, natural to have more patience.” — Alice Uchida

All parents have hard days sometimes. Maybe we find ourselves in an escalating cycle with our child, where we see everything she does through a negative lens. Maybe we have an interaction with him that leaves wounds.

How can we recover our patience, repair the relationship, and move back into a positive cycle? Here are five steps you can take that will really help. You’ll see big changes within a few days.

  1. Calm yourself down.
    The first step is to get past your own upset. When you’re hurt, or scared, you naturally want to lash out. But your child is not the enemy, no matter what she did. So the first step is to calm yourself down before you talk to your child. Try deep breathing, holding yourself with compassion, letting yourself feel those tears and fears. But the minute you veer into blame or anger, rein yourself in. Stay away from the story about why your child is wrong and you’re right. Instead, just feel whatever pain you feel at the moment, and love yourself through it. Those feelings will begin to evaporate, and you won’t need the anger. Now you can start to choose love.
  1. Let go of your fear.
    Usually, we “crack down” on kids out of our own fear. It’s natural to worry when your child seems to be purposely acting badly. Will she still be like this when she grows up? Luckily, the answer is almost certainly no. She will mature. It’s natural for her to make mistakes or act childish — her frontal cortex is still developing (and won’t be finished until she’s in her twenties!) What she really needs from you, so that she can grow and change, is your unconditional love and your belief in her essential goodness.
  1. See it from his perspective.
    Your child is not out to get you. He’s only trying to get his needs met as best he can. If he’s using strategies that don’t work so well, maybe you can figure out how to help him meet those needs more constructively.  For instance:
    A child who’s hitting a younger sibling is almost always acting out of fear — that you don’t love him as much, or that his territory is being invaded. Aggression is a defense against fear or pain.
    A child who’s being demanding and cranky usually needs to cry in the safety of your arms.
    A child who’s being obstinate usually needs more autonomy and opportunities to explore her power in the world.
    A child who acts disrespectful needs more connection with you — and to feel heard and respected by you.
  1. Write a list of all the things you appreciate about your child.
    Make sure you write at least a page. Stalled out?  Think back to when she was a baby.  Or reflect on how every “fault” you see in your child is actually a strength if seen from another perspective, and list those strengths.
  1. Re-connect.
    Find every opportunity to empathize and connect. Acknowledge his feelings so he feels heard and accepted, even when you’re setting limits (“I see how frustrated you are”…..”This isn’t what you wanted”…..”You wish it could be different”) Roughhouse to get him laughing every day, particularly with games that show him how much you value him. At bedtime, ask him what was good about his day, and listen while you stroke his hair. Tell him all the things you love about him.  Tell him how lucky you are to be his parent. In the end, maybe the most important thing you can do for your child’s self esteem, and for your relationship with him, is to actively delight in him.

After three days of this, you should see a big difference in how connected you feel with your child. You’ll also see a big difference in your child’s behavior, because children blossom when they feel safe and connected.

And you’ll notice that you’re more patient. Because patience doesn’t come from gritting your teeth and trying not to lose your temper. Patience comes from your deep understanding of your child’s perspective…Your awareness that she’s a child, still learning….And your love, which is so much bigger than those tough days that every parent has sometimes.

Find the original article here.

Dr. Laura Markham is the author of Peaceful Parent, Happy Siblings: How To Stop the Fighting and Raise Friends For Life and Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids: How To Stop Yelling and Start Connecting. Find her online at AhaParenting.com


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